Tag Archives: Retailing

New Wine Shopping Experience at Vinopolis London

Ever since I heard that Majestic would be moving out from under the arches at Bank End, the warren of brick tunnels between Borough Market and the Thames, home to Vinopolis, I wondered what would be happening there.

It was quickly announced that Laithwaites, one of the key retailing brands of the MASSIVE Direct Wines, the king of direct mail wine suppliers in this country, including The Sunday Times Wine Club and countless others, was to take over the space. I wondered how they would be using the opportunity. They already had a number of shops as well as their direct mail business, but this was a big change for them.

I was not disappointed by the effort they have made to make this a pleasant and welcoming shopping experience. Check it out yourself:

Although the Majestic shop that had been there was a bit of an institution, its warehouse style presentation, that works well in its shops around the country, didn’t quite fit the end of the Vinopolis experience. Much as I enjoy shopping in Majestic stores as a wine lover, they can be rather daunting to some, and moving from the Vinopolis Tour to a roomful of thousands of wines was a bit like getting someone to watch a single episode of The F Word then expecting them to run the kitchens at one of Gordon Ramsey’s restaurants.

The choice, presentation and decisions were rather overwhelming. Maybe even off-putting.

I hope Laithwaites apparent focus on the tasting table, and the space to explore around the displays, will be more welcoming for novice wine drinkers. I also hope they keep the range of wines available to taste as broad (and non-exclusive) as possible.

I didn’t have much time to look at the full range available. I did notice some well-known names from Australia, New Zealand, Spain and also a range of ‘Fine Wine’ (usually £20+ per bottle) but I wonder what regular consumers will make of the lack of the brands they are used to seeing in high street retailers for context?

In any case, let’s hope the site helps to welcome many more consumers to the enjoyment, variety and culture of wine.

The official opening is on February 19th (according to Tony Laithwaites blog) but you can already pop in today.

Disclaimer: in my professional role for wineries in Rioja, I am involved in supplying 1 wine to Laithwaites.

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The case of Majestic’s big small announcement

I just heard via two sources on Twitter (isn’t it great?) that Majestic are about to radically change their business model and potentially make them an even greater player in the world of wine retailing.

Now Majestic’s minimum purchase it to be halved to only 6 bottles

Until now, Majestic required consumers to buy a minimum of 12 bottles at a time. Their “warehouse” model of large stores, plenty parking and knowledgable staff had  made them a favourite of keen wine drinkers.

However, the vast majority of UK wine drinkers do not buy 12 bottles at a time. Most buy 1 bottle for a specific evening, or maybe 2-3 if on a promotion. This made them a ‘specialist’ as opposed to a regular ‘wine shop’ in the minds of most consumers.

The theory has been that by buying in larger quantities, you could take advantage of more volume deals and get a better price overall for your wine. In practice I wonder quite how much better that price was unless you were really picking the promoted lines, but …

Despite targeting a relatively small number of wine drinkers, Majestic has been enormously successful in the last few years, especially if you compare them to their peers; Oddbins, Wine Rack/Threshers and pretty much any other high street wine retail name. It makes a BIG difference to have 1 customer walk into your shop and buy 12 bottles with an average price around £6-£8 and therefore spending £70-£100 instead of them walking out with a single bottle, no matter how expensive.

… spare a thought for the independent wine merchant struggling to survive

Now Majestic’s minimum purchase it to be halved to only 6 bottles. Clever, or crazy?

  • On one side, getting consumers to move up to buying 6 bottles is easier than jumping from 3 to 12.
  • It means that the wine consumer on a budget who already buys at Majestic might feel less guilty about going back to the store to “only” buy 6
  • Many modern flats do not have space for storing 12 bottles at a time (sad to say)
  • Majestic is obviously hoping that their “£2 off per bottle if you buy 2 or more” type discounts will encourage shoppers to buy more than 6 anyway (I always seemed to buy more than 12 I admit)

However, it risks upsetting the delicate balance they have achieved that has made them successful.

12 bottles was not a ‘legal’ requirement, at least not once you could mix & match your own. It was simply the business saying “you will buy 12 bottles or we won’t sell to you”.

People accepted that, in part because 12 bottles was a psychologically significant number (as the number of bottles in a standard case measure). How will consumers react to this being changed? Happy that it is now “only” 6? Or will they wonder why they have to buy 6 at all, and why they can’t just buy 3, or 1?

Also, I’m certain there were those who bought extra bottles to fill their 12 bottle quota. What happens to those purchases?

It is a bold move that will hopefully attract some of those customers who like wine and knew of Majestic but for whom 12 bottles and the thought of £75-a-visit were a substantial barrier.

Let’s also hope it encourages more consumers to make wine drinking a more planned activity.  A little research can make the appreciation of the wine so much greater.

Finally, spare a thought for the independent wine merchant struggling to survive in your town, village or high street. This potentially makes their life even harder, but maybe you could learn about new wines with Majestic’s offers and education, then go exploring the wines of smaller wineries and regions with the help of your local merchant?

Good luck in your wine adventures!

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